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"Retire? Yeah, I want to die with my head in the typewriter. That's my idea of retirement."
- Alfred Bester

Sentry Trees  
  A set of trees that will allow only those with the safe signal to pass.  

At this point in the story, Aile Farr, biologist from Earth, is about to get his first real look at Iszc technology with his host, Zhde Patasz.

The glide-car slowed, coasted toward the beach, and halted twenty feet offshore. Uder Che, the architect, jumped into the knee-deep water and cautiously walked ashore, carrying a black box. The trees reacted to his presence, at first leaning toward him, then recoiling and unlacing their branches. After a moment there was a gap wide enough for the glide-car, which now proceeded across the beach and through the gap. Uder Che followed and boarded the car; the trees once more joined branches to create an impenetrable tangle.

Zhde Patasz explained that, "The trees will kill anyone who attempts to pass without manifesting the proper safe-signal, which is radiated from the box. In the past, planters often mounted expeditions against each other - no longer the case, of course - and the sentry trees are perhaps not strictly necessary. But we are a conservative lot and maintain our old customs.

From The Houses of Iszm, by Jack Vance.
Published by Better Publications in 1954
Additional resources -

Trees or bushes with interlaced branches have been used for centuries as a kind of barrier; at least one ninth century French king complained of the construction of unauthorized haies et fertés - hedgerows made of interlaced hawthorne branches.

Here's another brief excerpt of sentry trees in action:

Farr walked up to one of the houses, peered into a low-hanging pod. Instantly a branch dropped down, and had Farr not jumped back he might have been injured. As it was, the heavy terminal frond slapped across his scalp. One of the Szecr, standing twenty yards distant, sauntered forward. “You are not advised to molest the trees.”

“I wasn’t molesting anything or anyone.”

The Szecr shrugged. “The tree thought otherwise. It is trained to be suspicious of strangers. Among the lower castes…” the Szecr spat contemptuously, “feuds and quarrels go on, and the trees become uneasy at the presence of a stranger.”

Farr turned to examine the tree with new interest. “Do you mean that the trees have a conscious mind?”

The Szecr’s answer was no more than an indifferent shrug.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Houses of Iszm
  More Ideas and Technology by Jack Vance
  Tech news articles related to The Houses of Iszm
  Tech news articles related to works by Jack Vance

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